GROWING numbers of elderly and sick Germans are being sent overseas for long-term care in retirement and rehabilitation centres because of rising costs and falling standards in Germany.
Rehousing thousands of retired Germans in homes in eastern Europe and Asia has been criticised by social welfare organisations as "inhumane deportation".
But with increasing numbers of Germans unable to afford the cost of retirement homes, and an ageing and shrinking population, the number expected to be sent abroad in the next few years is only likely to rise.
Germany's care industry suffers from lack of workers and soaring costs, but for years the crisis has been mitigated by eastern Europeans migrating to Germany to care for the country's elderly. But the transfer of elderly people to eastern Europe indicates that even with imported, cheaper workers, the system is unworkable.
The Sozialverband Deutschland, a socio-political advisory group, has called for political intervention, saying a growing number of Germans are unable to afford the cost of a retirement home in their own country. "We simply cannot let those people who built Germany up to be what it is, who put their backbones into it all their lives, be deported. It is inhumane," said its president, Ulrike Mascher.
An estimated 7146 German pensioners were living in retirement homes in Hungary in 2011. More than 3000 had been sent to the Czech Republic, and there were more than 600 in Slovakia and unknown numbers in Spain, Greece, Ukraine, Thailand and the Philippines.
Germany's federal bureau of statistics says more than 400,000 senior citizens are unable to afford a German retirement home, a figure growing by about 5 per cent a year.
The reasons are rising care home costs, stagnating pensions and longer life expectancy. The statutory insurers that make up Germany's state insurance system are discussing how to make care in foreign retirement homes into a long-term workable financial model.
European Union law prevents state insurers signing contracts directly with overseas homes, but that is likely to change as legislators are forced to find ways to respond to Europe's ageing population.